Surging Mississippi River swamps Illinois towns


Mississippi River
Mississippi River

Residents of southern states along the Mississippi River are bracing for the flooding that has swamped communities from the Ohio River Valley to eastern Oklahoma over the last week, causing thousands of evacuations and killing at least 31 people.

Twelve Illinois counties have been declared disaster areas, and Governor Bruce Rauner on Friday (January 1) ordered Illinois National Guard troops into flooded areas in the southern part of the state to mitigate flood damage and help with evacuation efforts.

The Mississippi is expected to crest at Thebes, in southern Illinois, at 47.5 feet (14 meters) on Sunday (January 3), more than 1.5 feet above the 1995 record, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

Flood warnings were also in effect on Friday for parts of Texas, Oklahoma, the Carolinas, Alabama and Kentucky, the NWS said, while major flooding was occurring on the Arkansas River and its tributaries in that state.

Workers in southwestern Tennessee were preparing sandbags on Friday in hopes of limiting damage from the Mississippi when it crests at Memphis next week, state emergency management officials said. Officials were also examining levees, to make sure they would hold.

Flooding in the U.S. Midwest typically occurs in the spring as snowmelt swells rivers. Freezing temperatures that have followed the rare winter flooding have added to regional woes.

Most of the deaths in Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas have been caused by people driving into flooded areas after days of downpours. The dead included a central Illinois teenager whose body was recovered on Friday near where a truck in which he was riding was found the day before. Another teen from the truck was still missing.

Dozens have died in U.S. storms, which also brought unusual winter tornadoes and were part of a wild worldwide weather system over the Christmas holiday period that also saw severe flooding in Britain.

 

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